Strava: Motivator or Murderer?


If you haven’t heard of the activity logging app Strava, you must be living under a rock. A big rock that blocks GPS reception.

Like mapmyride or RunKeeper it allows you to use your smartphone or GPS unit to track your ride, upload it to a site and view info about your activity. Strava’s genius is that as well as tracking your entire ride, it breaks it down into small segments, allowing you to check your performance on a particular straight, or check just how steep that hill by the bridge really is. It also means that you can ‘race’ other users on those segments, since everyone who logs a ride over that section will have a time recorded and be added to the leaderboard. If you have even the slightest smidgen of competitiveness in your nature, you will find yourself riding harder and harder to get a new PR and work your way up the board to claim the coveted KOM.

So far, so good. Strava adds a bit of spice that can turn an otherwise standard commute into an interval workout, even if the only thing you’re training for is to improve your standings on Strava. Unfortunately, providing a new forum for people to unleash their competitiveness can have grim results. One US cyclist trying to regain top spot on a segment hit a car and died as a result. Being America, this of course led to a lawsuit, and some pretty hefty waivers being suddenly written in to the Strava terms of service.

As with any gadget that you might use while riding, your first thought should always be to keep yourself (and others around you) safe. If you’re ‘racing’ a segment and it doesn’t feel safe, ease up and slow to a pace that is safe. Log your ride later, and have a look at how you did. If it looks like people are screaming along that segment at dangerous speeds, flag it. Strava wants to encourage people to ride, but not if it’s dangerous.

The other dangerous element on Strava are the occasional challenges proposed by other companies. Currently, Rapha have convinced me to try to climb 6,881m – the equivalent of the ‘Circle of Death‘ – over the course of a week. As soon as that finishes, I’ll be trying to cover 1788km in a month for the Bicycling Australia Every Second Counts challenge… even riding safely, this Strava thing might kill me yet!

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